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Useful Information - Boating Regulations

Click here for the County Code Chapter 16.04 regarding boating.

Thurston County has regulations established regarding recreational boating on all Thurston County lakes and marine waters patrolled by the Marine Services Unit of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

Education is one of the most important aspects of boating safely and responsibly. As the operator you are responsible not only for operating the vessel safely but also for having the required safety equipment on board and in good working condition. Becoming familiar with the regulations for your vessel and making sure your vessel is properly equipped will help you prepare for a safe and fun boating season.

State law requires boat operators 35 years and younger to carry a Washington State Boater Education card when operating a vessel of 15 horsepower or more in Washington waterways. Additional information about Washington’s Mandatory Boater Education requirement or when the next course may be offered in Thurston County can be obtained online at

Basic things to remember before heading out…….

  • Make sure your vessel is currently licensed and in good working condition

  • Safety equipment requirements are based on vessel type and size. Make sure your vessel is properly equipped

  • Must have one wearable (of appropriate size) US Coast Guard approved personal floatation device for each person on board the vessel

  • Children 12 and under are required to wear life jackets on vessels 19 feet and under

  • Make sure the vessel is equipped with a sound producing device (e.g. blow whistle or horn)

  • If towing a person, there must be two people on board the vessel and a bright red or orange skier down flag

  • Know the speed limit and skiing times of the lake your visiting

  • Stay 200 feet from all shorelines, boat launch and swim areas and 100 feet from all other vessels while operating over five miles per hour

  • You must be at least 16 years of age to operate a personal watercraft legally

  • Must carry a Washington State Boater Education card

  • Be aware of your surroundings and courteous to others when operating a vessel

  • No drugs or alcohol. It is illegal to operate a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs

If you have questions you may contact Marine Services Sergeant Mancillas at 360-786-5525.